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Thursday, May 27, 2004

Car Trouble 

My knowledge of working on cars is as follows: I can check the oil and put gas in the tank.

Daughter calls to advise that her Hyundai has quit, leaving Daughter and Boyfriend-of-Daughter stranded about 20 miles from home. I inquire why she is calling me, rather than C (Father-of-Boyfriend), who can fix anything (except a computer - more on that in a future post). Daughter explains that she did, in fact, call C, but Mrs. C advised that C was attending a function at their church and would not be home for a while. I tell Wife that I am going to retrieve Daughter. Wife decides to accompany me. I check behind the seat of my pickup for the presence of my Towing Strap (a 20-foot-long, nylon thingy useful for pulling other vehicles and tying up Wife). We then strike out, seeking Daughter and Boyfriend-of-same.

We eventually arrive at Daughter's location. Not wishing to embarrass Daughter by admitting, in front of Boyfriend, that I don't know anything about cars, I instruct her to get in the car and try to start it. Daughter dubiously complies, but, of course, the car doesn't start. Recalling something I'd seen real mechanics do, I tell Daughter to "Pop the hood!". After Boyfriend shows me the thingy in the grill which actually releases the hood, we lift it and I gaze knowingly about, wiggling a wire here and handling a hose there. As I am doing this, I am going "Um-hum", "Ahhhh", and, occasionally, "Uh-oh!". I eventually realize that I sound more like a doctor than a mechanic, so I continue my evaluation of the problem in silence. When I figure I have spent a sufficient amount of time seeking the problem, I turn to my audience. I announce, in an authoritative voice: "Apparently the Dibbling Pin has come loose from the Wobbling Rod, which has punched a hole in the Poosum Valve!".

Daughter is impressed!
Boyfriend is amazed!
Wife rolls eyes.

A pickup pulls up behind Daughter's Hyundai, and C pops out. Having no other choice, I repeat my diagnosis to him. Due to the fact that I know more about computers than he does, C thinks I am pretty smart, and he knows that I use strange terminology (I say things like "USB port" and "ethernet"), so he thinks I may actually have figured out what is wrong, and I'm just "saying it funny". So when I suggest that we will need to tow the Huyndai to B's (my mechanic) shop, C concurs!

We connect the towing strap to Daughter's car and to my pickup, then decide that I will drive the pickup, Boyfriend will drive the Hyundai, and C will follow with his emergency flashers on. As we are about to get in the vehicles, C cries "UH-OH!". As he takes off running toward the woods, C hollers back over his shoulder, "We had collards at the church supper!" (What's that catchy tune from the commercial? Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now!) C tells us to go ahead and he will catch up, so we dive into the vehicles and take off (collards smell bad enough going in; you sure don't to be around when they're coming out!).

After about fifteen miles, I note that my pickup is running a little hot, so I stop. While waiting for the pickup to cool down, Boyfriend and I are discussing the situation. Boyfriend admits that he has never piloted a towed vehicle before, so he has been extra careful not to run into me - he has kept his foot on the brake the entire time!

While trying to decide if I should tear Boyfriend's foot off and beat him to death with it, C pulls up. By mutual consent, it is decided that C will pilot the Hyundai and Boyfriend and Daughter will follow in C's pickup. We set off, but after only a couple of miles, the towing strap comes loose. We stop and re-attach it. A couple more miles, and it comes loose again. This time C, who has at some point been either an ironworker or a Boy Scout, decides that he will attach the towing strap using some kind of fancy knot. I forget the exact name of the knot - a Square Left-Handed Triple Bowline Goat-Shanked Upsidedown Windsor, or some such - but it sure was impressive! It took C five full minutes to tie, and when he was finished, we still had a good three feet (of a twenty-foot strap!) between the bumper of my pickup and the bumper of Daughter's Hyundai.

We set off again, and we are making such fine progress that Wife decides that C may not crash into us after all. She then begins scanning for a good station on the radio. We are approaching a railroad track with no crossing gate, so I ask Wife to roll down her window and listen for train whistles or other evidence that we may need to stop. Wife cracks her window slightly, and without lowering the volume on the radio, she announces that there are no trains in the vicinity, so I do not slow down. Imagine my surprise, then, when I am assaulted by a sudden bright, rotating light and the blast from the train's horn, said train being only about fifty yards down the track and approaching fast! I consider slamming on the brakes, but it occurs to me that C will then crash into the rear of my pickup and possibly shove it onto the track. So instead I stomp down on the accelerator and drag C across the track a few feet before the train passes.

We eventually arrive at B's shop and disembark from our respective vehicles. C and I have a short discussion.

Me: You and your fancy knots! Do you realize that if that train had hit you, it would have ripped the bumper off of my pickup?!?

C: Do you realize that if those collards hadn't made me run into the woods back there, you would have had to sell this Hyundai for junk because you would never have got all of the @%#* out of it???